The Loneliest Jukebox

Graham Barnfield's weblog, being gradually replaced by his Twitter feed -

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

LiQuids In

A "few particularly priggish pedants" (p.18). That's what sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls those who, like me, think Reality TV shows are sometimes less than real. Actually his new book Liquid Fear contains some good insights into Big Brother etc., which I'll quote at length:

"... 'real' is what they show. And what they show is the inevitability of exclusion, and the fight again being excluded, are what that reality boils down to (p.18).

When confronted with a photographically/electronically contrived image, nothing seems to stand between us and reality; nothing that may arrest or divert the eye ... The knowledge which 'reality TV' spells out would otherwise be diffuse, sliced into bits and pieces and notoriously difficult to collate and make sense of (p.19).


That world, as 'Reality TV' has vividly shown and convincingly proved, is all about 'who sends whom to refuse tip'; or, rather, who'll do it first, while there is still time to do to the others what they would dearly wish, given the chance, to do to you - and before they manage to act on their wishes" (p.25).

Okay, so Bauman blots his copy by making the example hang on hapless Craig Coates, and claims 'there is no way to repeal evictions altogether' (p.25) - exactly what they did to smuggle Princess Nikki Graheme back into the house the following year. But to an extent, it's hard to disagree with the idea that society gets the reality TV it deserves.

Digest digested

My ramblings appear in a new publication.

In the book there's a "short but thoughtful piece from Gary Barnfield [sic] who deserves an entry for his title alone" (p.218). Full marks to the publishers for finding a way to sell the consumer things which are already freely available. I'll have two bags of rain with that please.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Campus diversity and academic freedom

David Horowitz is angry. According to him, the American campus is in the grip of the far left. Consequently, such campaigns as Students for Academic Freedom are the way forward. It has been suggested that university hiring policies should reflect "balanced" quantities of Democrats and Republicans, backed up by an Academic Bill of Rights. Whatever is wrong with the (often marginal) left in the universities, more political intervention will further cut into academic freedom.

What's more, it's often hard to recognise the portrait Horowitz paints, especially outside the humanities. Instead, experience shows " completely (if subtly) the university is politicized by the existing power structure ... the concept of professionalism, enshrined by the current academic establishment, is revealed as wholly impotent in preserving scholarly standards of critical independence". And who tells us this?

David Horowitz.*

*See From Yalta to Vietnam (Pelican, 1971 ed.), p.21.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Blogging reconstructed

The new issue of Reconstruction is dedicated to blogs and blogging. Check it out.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Juxtaposition of the Week

Tickled by this email from my online DVD rentals company:
"Dear Graham,Good news! We've just posted The Saddest Music In The World to you, so please look out for it."
Yes, that sounds really cheerful. Great news indeed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Duff Tufty Club

Far be it from me to stick up for happy slappers, but a recent story in Metro tickled me:
"A video showing laughing youngsters spraying lighter fuel on a friend's bare bottom before setting it alight provoked outrage yesterday. Footage of the stunt carried out by a self-confessed 'idiot squad' was posted on website YouTube in the 'entertainment' category" ('"Buttocks on fire" video condemned, Metro 22 November 2006, p.7).

Quite rightly, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents called the action "absolutely ridiculous". But surely there was nothing accidental about it, and RoSPA is extending its brief here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

All Wells that's not ended yet...

H.G. Wells once penned a semi-autobiographical novel in which he "realized building was the enemy". Elsewhere he envisioned, as a vision of hell, London as "a gigantic glass hive" with a population of 33 million (see John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1800-1939 pp.118, 123).

These days it seems we have a government that sees building as the enemy, echoing the authoritarian Wells. My sickbed reading includes James Heartfield's detailed rebuttal of this viewpoint. James seems pretty relaxed about the prospect of 33 million Londoners. Quite right too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Jukebox unplugged

Taking a break from blogging until further notice.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Petty jibe of the month

"Professor Alan Johnson teaches at Edge Hill University, and is the founder and editor of Democratiya. A co-author of The Euston Manifesto, he edits it's 'Social Democratic Futures' pages." Not very well I would wager, given the way - at the time of writing - that he uses the apostrophe in the previous sentence.

Why the sniping? Because for Euston Manifesto supporters, an individual's typing errors are fair game. What's good for the goose ...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pot, kettle …

An old reality TV quotation that I forget to use during Big Brother this summer:
Melinda Messenger reveals
If you could evict any housemate who would it be?
"I would probably go for Lisa because she can't say what she feels, she is very inarticulate. When she said about spaghetti on her pillows you were like what is she coming out with?"
(Friday 16 June Day 30, 22:16)
Quite. Winner Pete on the other hand had none of Lisa or Melinda's problems with articulacy...

Thanks to the internet
my wife is a very happy woman.
My penis is now forty-seven feet long
it stays erect for weeks at a time
and it is garlanded
by hundreds of genuine Rolex watches
acquired with the millions I have won in various Albanian lotteries
and the billions generously deposited
in my accounts
by the grateful executors of the wills
of innumerable African tribal chiefs
all mysteriously deceased along with their entire extended families
in improbably gruesome lawnmower accidents in Liechtenstein.
'My account with Lloyds has been suspended!'
(I don't have one.)
My wife's breasts enlarge and reduce
spontaneously as we use our 95% discounted software
to gaze at the pictures of our free timeshare apartments
enjoying continuous multiple orgasms whilst admiring our genuine Chinese historical artefacts purchased online from Hong Kong. Our garden is full of imported rubber.
Not rubber sex toys or even rubber boots just: rubber.
I have more free Coldplay MP3s than you could wave a suicide note at.
I also have 'Kate Moss Suction Power'.
I don't know what that is but I am hoping that it may be useful next time the toilet needs unblocking.
I now know the Cyrillic alphabet and the Polish for 'are you embarrassed about your size?'
Every morning a new surrealist word juxtaposition appears in my inbox
as the spammers seek to avoid the filter.
Applicator fornicate!
Consonant clitoris!
Hay fever padre!
Crabmeat be Paris!
Out evoke in robins!
Bestiality service charge!
Decomposing lark’s vomit engulf Crystal Palace!
(Ok, I made the last one upbut all the others are genuine...)
And to prove that truth is indeed stranger than fiction in our brave new world my website is recommended as one of the top fifty stockbroking sites on many search engines. Now that really is Pythonesque.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

In the Nick of timelessness

It must be that time of year again. Nick Cohen has just published/repeated his annual installment of RCP gossip and sectariana, this time in the New Humanist. Unlike last year's effort, he makes a concession to the thoughtfulness of Munira Mirza. Maybe he thinks she's a "cutie".

The odd up-to-date reference in Cohen's article suggests that he at least embellishes his single transferable rant, not letting his word-processing software do all the work. But he still goes in for the same lies about the 1980s politics that I took part in:
"reform ... would prolong the ‘capitalist’ system and avert the glorious moment when communism came. Its members were ‘revolutionary defeatists’ in the old jargon of Leninism, who campaigned for the world to get worse so it might one day be better."

Supposedly damning, but completely untrue. My Leninist campaigns always revolved around reforms - decriminalising homosexuality and abortion, scrapping immigration controls, "work or full pay" as a solution to unemployment, and so forth. It was better to campaign around these demands than to do the "one solution, revolution" line to be found elsewhere on left.

And revolutionary defeatism means working for the defeat of your own national rulers in wars and colonial conflicts, rather than a more general sense that "the worse it gets for them, the better it gets for us". (Cohen probably knows this, not least because his co-thinker Oliver Kamm has just busted the SWP for having a secret revolutionary defeatist position in 2003.) Tweaking the cliche, clearly Cohen's not one to let the truth get in the way of the same old story.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


You heard me right. The BBC drama Spooks, known as MI-5 in the USA, is now a staple feature of the schedules. When Season 1 debuted back in 2002, the old leftie in me lacked enthusiasm for a TV series glorifying the security services. More personally, seeing how actor Peter Firth had lost his curly perm in the years since The Flipside of Dominick Hide was an intimation of mortality.

Over time, Spooks has grown on me. True, it had/has elements of the torture-fest that characterises 24. Having once been in a movie with Jenny Agutter - although I remember her more than she remembers me - I also revisited her stint on the show and enjoyed it.

More recently, Spooks has been getting on my nerves. Unlike Stephen Pollard or Melanie Phillips, I'm not getting my knickers in a twist about the alleged anti-semitism on the show (the "it was Mossad wot done it" punchlines). In fact, season 5 episode 9 writer Neil Cross - who, coincidentally, I also in a film with - is fairly selective in his use of Mossad death squads.

No, the real problem with recent storylines is their predictability. If the drama hinges on being betrayed by allies, the CIA, double agents and people who aren't what they seem, then it can be shocking. If the betrayals take place each week, the shock is diminshed. It makes for bad drama, akin to the Hollywood typecasting of the late J.T. Walsh as a case in point. (If you turn up to work in a movie and he's playing your boss, start applying for work elsewhere immediately.) Come on Spooks, sort it out.

And don't get me started on those "ethical" storylines, where MI5 is defeating genocide and saving the planet ...